This is the saga of Hermann the Bass. A bit of background might be necessary to provide a better understanding of the situation.
Hermann the Bass is a refugee from the Hermann Park Lake, adjacent to the Houston Zoo. He presently is residing in Hermann Park Lake West, otherwise known as a 30-gallon aquarium in the den of my townhome on the west side of Houston.
The old Hermann Park Lake was where, as a pre-teen, I learned to fish. It was my primary water, within reach of Schwinn pedal-power, a basic beginning for a serious angler. I had no real mentors---just the old lake and the ongoing stoke provided by outdoor magazines and newspaper columns.
I embraced the old 3-1/2-acre pond. The water was clear and green, filled with mats of "coontail" moss, flocks of quacking white ducks, and swarms of stunted bluegill sunfish. Plus the occasional "goggle eye" and largemouth bass.
Catching a bass back then was a really big deal and I learned a lot about fishing---stealth, finesse, patience, the virtues that carry well to any water. And, trust me; during the past 50-plus years since graduating from the fledgling duck pond, I have fished a lot of venues around the world.
About 10 years ago, the Old Hermann Park Lake was drained and enlarged. The restoration was implemented by the City of Houston and funded by Friends of Hermann Park; the project was part of an overall plan to expand the zoo and park.
The new lake looks much the same, only its about twice as large, with several "fishy" fingers and coves. The water is clear and weed-choked, with plenty of ducks, and maintained at a consistent level by numerous aeration pumps. TPWD stocked bluegills, bass, and channel catfish.
Bold park signs along the scenic walking trails proclaimed: Fishing Restricted to 13 and under and 65 and Older.
Well, last year I turned 65. Say it aint so, Joe, but I have a Medicare Card. Overcome one afternoon by a serious case of nostalgia, I decided to retrace early steps---and casts---and visited Hermann Park Lake.
I used a light spinning outfit and 4-inch unweighted plastic worms and small topwater plugs. I caught a few small bass. It was fun. In truth, Ive been back several times. Being retired, I usually go during the late afternoons when Im bored with the Bonanza and Rawhide reruns.
Several months ago, I fell heir to the 30-gallon fish tank. I have minimal interest in goldfish and their ilk, but thought it might be, well, interesting to keep a Hermann Park bass. Okay, Im sentimental about old water.
I filled the tank with good water and gravel, bought a tricky aerator/filter pumping gizmo that only took four hours to assemble, then added a big rock and the healthy "cover" of some frilly strands of coontail moss. Or maybe its hydrilla. But the aquatic weeds are from the Hermann Park Lake.
So is Hermann the Bass. I caught him back in August, utilizing a sly spot-and-stalk and a delicate cast as he cruised through a pothole amid the summer weed mats. He was about 7 inches in length and hooked cleanly in the corner of the jaw.
Hermann survived the 30-minute commute to his new home in the gurgling aquarium. He scooted about for several minutes then seemed to adjust to the new semi-cramped environs. Two days later, I dumped two dozen minnows in the tank and within a day, he ate them all.
Hermann, in his townhouse aqarium. Photo: Joe Doggett
Thus far, weve learned several things:
First, catch-and-release exercised with reasonable care works extremely well on bass, especially those not deeply hooked. Hermann was subjected to prolonged stress (opposed to a quick on-water release) yet continues to survive in grand shape. He shows no evidence of slime or scale damage.
Second, bass are voracious feeders. The minnows were small, even on the minnow scale, but two dozen within a day were a major meal for a 7-inch predator. Hermann was visibly bloated and somewhat sluggish following the melee.
He rested behind the rock and close to bottom, his belly almost scraping the gravel. My impression is that a well-fed bass is not going out of its way to chase prey, at least for several days.
Hermann has a cold and hateful stare whenever I walk near the tank. All his fins stick out and most of them sort of bristle. If body language means anything, hes clearly saying, "Why, youre the son-of-a-bitch that put me in here!"
He seems to hold a long-lasting grudge. If I ease closer to the tank, he glares even harder. He has a reverse gear and can slowly back up by waving and waggling his fins. He retreats a few inches, then advances, mean jaw jutting out. I get the feeling Hermann would like nothing better than to grab the end of my red nose.
Weve settled into a workable routine. I dump a batch of minnows in the tank about every week and Hermann eats them.
Hermann, like the lake that spawned him, has been a good teacher.
Now that Ive written this, Im going to take Hermann back and turn him loose where he belongs.